“May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, we see that God did not force his will on her. We may tend to take her decision for granted, but it was not automatic. However holy and righteous Mary may have been, it was still within her power to decline the role God desired for her. He gave her freedom to reject his invitation, but she chose to say yes.
Even Jesus had the freedom to choose when he prayed in Gethsemane that the cup of torture and death he was facing be taken from him, but then he submitted. “Yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Like Mary and Jesus, God has given us the freedom to make choices. When I was in my mid-40’s, I was offered a promotion in my work that would have required our family to move. Everything in my work experience was calling out to me to accept this apparent advance in my career, but we had three teenage daughters and a young son at the time. My wife and I discerned that under the circumstances it was not in God’s will for us to make this move. We will never know what might have happened had I accepted the assignment, but we do know what did happen – an apparent initial sacrifice was transformed into a cup overflowing with a multitude of blessings. Since that time God added another special child to our family. The first four children are now raising Christian families of their own, adding 13 grandchildren to our overall family.
How precious is the gift of freedom which God gives to each of us! He preserved it even in the midst of his most important act after creation – his intention to become one of his created in the person of Jesus in order to overcome evil and save the world from sin and death.
We honor and revere Mary for her decision of faithfulness and obedience to God’s desire. As we read the Gospel of Luke, we may tend to gloss over all of the real and practical complications, second guessing, and judgments Mary must have endured in saying yes to God’s messenger. Even Joseph intended to divorce her until God spoke to him in a dream.
Without this freedom to choose, love, faithfulness and obedience have no meaning. A coerced love is no love at all. Freedom is a precondition to love. It’s the way God set things up, and Mary illustrates it perfectly in agreeing to be part of something that had never happened before in human history.
Do we appreciate the gift of freedom that God has given us?